Zwift have revealed details of the inaugural UCI Esports World Championships, scheduled for December 9, with Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Anna van der Breggen, Victor Campenaerts, Esteban Chaves, Rigoberto Urán, Tom Pidcock, Alberto Bettiol, Cory Williams and Lawson Craddock all representing their nations in the 50km virtual race.
A total of 20 national teams will ride the men's and women's races, with a number of wild cards awarded to riders to bring the total number of nations represented to 22.
Some of the best Esports riders will join the big-name road racers, with Lionel Vujasin (Belgium), Ollie Jones (New Zealand) and Cecilia Hansen (Sweden) all possible contenders for the first-ever Esports rainbow jersey due to the gaming element of Zwift racing and the need for specific winter fitness.
The Esports world champion will be awarded a special virtual jersey for their avatar and a real-life version that may be worn in UCI Cycling Esports events for the 2021 season. It has the iconic rainbow bands but features a pixel design to represent the new digital discipline of racing.
Both men and women will compete on 50km courses that will be held on Zwift's Watopia Figure 8 Reverse course, finishing on top of the Hilly Q/KOM. With 483m in elevation, this course will suit a rider with all-round abilities. At an average gradient of 5.5% over 0.9km, the Watopia Hilly Q/KOM will be a testing finish.
The UCI's plans for an Esports World Championships were first announced during the 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Esports and virtual racing gained a foothold among professional cycling, with events on various platforms held in place of postponed real-world races, such as the Tour of Flanders lockdown edition on BKool, the Digital Swiss 5 on Rouvy and the Virtual Tour de France on Zwift.
Riders will compete remotely from their own homes or training bases, much like in the Virtual Tour de France. Zwift have announced the Garmin Tacx Neo 2T as the official smart trainer for the event so that all the riders compete on the same model of hardware. Rider data and performances will also be verified by Zwift.
"Together with the UCI on December 9, we will be making history," Zwift CEO Eric Min said.
"This will be the first event of its kind and I believe it will mark the future direction of sport, fitness and competition. There is no doubt that technology will play a bigger role and this competition perfectly blends technology with what we traditionally associate with physical 'sport'."
Zwift have also created a 'Nations Challenge' event for the weekend of December 5-6 that gives regular Zwift riders the opportunity to represent their country.
Zwifters will be encouraged to work together as the winner of the Nations Challenge will be determined by the fastest average time. Further details of the Nations Challenge events can be found on the Zwift event page.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the Esports World Championships.
Today's best Black Friday deals
Today's cycling-related highlights from the Black Friday sales. For even more, view our guide to the best Black Friday bike deals where you'll find on all things cycling, including bikes, helmets, clothing and more.
Today's best deals: USA
Competitive Cyclist: 60% off Assos S.J.Blitzfeder rain jacket
Chain Reaction Cycles: LifeLine 18-piece tool kit
$73.99| $49.99 | 32% off
Today's best deals: UK
ProBikeKit: 300-lumen rear Lezyne light for under £35.00
Chain Reaction Cycles: 50% off Mobi V-15 bike pressure washer | £49.99